hand on Bible open to Psalms

Searching for Wisdom in the Psalms

 January 12, 2022

I have spent my whole life searching for wisdom, never realizing that search was leading me to the Psalms. Yet that is precisely where I find myself, searching for wisdom in the Psalms.

My Journey towards Wisdom

Back in my twenties I remember completing an inventory where I needed to rank thirty values according to how important they were to me. (I was always doing inventories back then!) Where others put things like having an adventurous life or a comfortable life at the top of their list, I ranked wisdom as number one. Thus, I named my life-long ambition. Like Solomon, I figured this was better to wish for than riches. Riches can be taken away from you, but wisdom, not so much.

You would think, based on that, that the wisdom books in the Bible would have been among my favorites. In reality, they ranked near the bottom, right along with the books of laws.

I had no interest in Proverbs, just a collection of boring sayings in my mind. (Though I do love the image of playing before God found in some versions of Proverbs 8:30 “I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times,” as well as chapter 9 about how wisdom has built a house.) And the long discourses in Job were “bor-ing”. Besides the Gospels, I loved the stories in Genesis and the fiery prophets with all of their quirks. The Psalms I ignored for the first half of my life. I liked stories, not poetry.

So how did I end up here, writing regular blog posts about the Psalms? My search for wisdom. In my forties I realized I probably knew less about the Psalms than any other book in the Bible and I decided to remedy that.

Wisdom In Scripture

While all the books of the Bible contain wisdom for those willing to learn, five books are set aside as Wisdom books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. (The Catholic Bible also includes the book of Wisdom and Sirach.) The books were meant to train young people in the ways of virtue and focused on four main themes: God’s creation, natural laws, the future, and the meaning of life. You would think I would have embraced these books. After all, I was deep into exploring the big questions, like the meaning and purpose of life. But Job and Ecclesiastes struck me as far too negative.

Recently, though, I have been intrigued by passages in Ecclesiastes. “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow, and as knowledge grows, grief increases.” (1:18) “For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it.” (2:21) Wow. What good is all of my searching for knowledge if it only brings sorrow? If only I had known that in my twenties …

Wisdom in the Psalms

I used to think that Psalms was only included with the Wisdom books because the people who compiled the Bible had nowhere else to put it. But I’m learning there is a greater wisdom in the Psalms than I realized. A wisdom that goes beyond book learning and intellect. The Psalms include a wisdom that encompasses emotional intelligence and body intelligence.

I’ve come to appreciate that our emotions and our bodies hold a wisdom equal to that of the brain through my study of the Enneagram, in particular the Harmony Triads. There is a wisdom that goes beyond what we think. Our gut often knows something our head is unable to notice. The heart also has its wisdom. The seat of all knowledge isn’t just in the head.

What better place to experience the wisdom of the heart and gut than in the Psalms? They are the sung prayers of the people, often crying out to God in anguish and pain, or dancing before God in jubilation. In the Psalms you find all three ways of knowing. There are traditional wisdom psalms that reflect on the law and teachings (Pss. 1, 37, 49, 73,112, 127, 128 and 133), but they are joined by psalms of grief, anger, vengeance and beauty. In the Psalms you experience the depths and breadth of human existence on this earth. They encourage you to get out of your head in order to experience another form of wisdom.

Searching for Wisdom in the Psalms

And so, my searching for wisdom has led me precisely to where I needed to be – in the Psalms.

What are you searching for? Have you found it yet? Perhaps it is there, waiting for you in the Psalms!

(For another good post on the Psalms, check out 29 Best Psalms to Read of all Times, at Faithgiant.com.)

This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and receive a free copy of  Still Dancingthe second book in my Dancing through Life Series.      click here to sign up

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